Revelation 2:15

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Revelation 2:15

In the previous verse, Jesus said, “I have a few things against you.” He then went on to speak of the doctrine of Balaam which included a couple of negative things. He now finishes the list with, “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” The words are emphatic. A literal translation would be, “So have also you…”

It is debated what the intent of the emphasis is. It may be saying, “Just as you have those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam, so you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” If this is the intent, then there is still another division which must be determined. Is the doctrine of Balaam the same type of doctrine as the Nicolaitans, or is it in a separate category? If it is the same, then what they taught is known. If it is different, then we can’t be sure what the Nicolaitans actually taught.

There are also two other options concerning the emphasis. It could be in relation to Israel. “Just as Israel was seduced by Balaam, so are you seduced by this Nicolaitan doctrine. This seems less likely because Jesus seems to be saying that they have those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam, and they also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

The final option is that this is referring to the Ephesian church (verse 2:6). In this, the emphasis is on the fact that not only did they have one major doctrinal error (that of Balaam), but they also have a second one (that of the Nicolaitans). It is a doctrine said to be hated by the church in Ephesus, but this church of Pergamos has accepted it. This last option is not to be quickly discounted, because Jesus next repeats what He said to the Ephesian church, stating, “which thing I hate.”

With these final words, there is a slight variation in source texts. Instead of “which thing I hate,” some texts say, “in like manner.” With this change, the various options above take on a stronger or less likely case as to which is correct, and it is difficult to be dogmatic concerning the actual intent of this particular verse.

No matter which variation is correct, the Lord is displeased with the conduct of those who hold to these aberrant doctrines. It is a stern note of warning that they must turn away from the path they are on.

Life application: Whatever the actual doctrine of the Nicolaitans was, what appears certain is that it took a stand against holiness. In coming to Christ, and by no longer being under the law, people then assume that they are free to exercise whatever moral perversion makes them happy. But this is untrue. In Christ, believers are made holy in order to conduct their lives in holiness. This is why Paul, writing to saved believers at Galatia, says the following –

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:16-21

The issue is not whether those who are saved will lose their salvation. Paul’s words indicate that those who are not saved, when presented with a false gospel, will never be saved. Christ died for sin. If people are told that their lives are not sinful, then they will never be cleansed of their sin.

Lord God, we have been separated from you because of sin. The good news of Jesus’ coming tells us that He dealt with our sin for us. Help us to be wise and call out to Him while we have the chance. And then after that, may You be pleased with how we conduct our lives, living in holiness and to Your glory alone. Amen.



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